Help for Parents of Addicts: Alarming Trends from The NIDA

Looking for help for Parents of Addicts? You are not alone. According to the most recent findings from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug use among teens in the United States is on the rise – especially in young teens. The Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey has measured drug, alcohol, and cigarette use and related attitudes among adolescent students in the U.S. since 1975.  At its inception, the survey included high school seniors only, but in 1991 it was expanded to include 8th- and 10th-graders as well.

One major factor thought to be impacting the current statistics is the overall lowering in perceived risk, perceived social approval, and perceived availability for several drugs. The more risky or less accepted a drug is thought to be, the less likely it will be used by teens. Perceived availability often correlates with social approval – meaning that a drug that’s readily available is considered socially acceptable and will be more commonly used.

Teens don’t just consider the physical risks when using drugs, but also emotional, social/relational, and aspirational factors. Physical risks include may include addiction, and social risks include disappointing friends or family, entry into long term addiction program and losing friends. Aspirational risks include losing a job, or getting in trouble with the law. All of these perceived risks – physical, emotional, social, and aspirational – are different with each drug, and contributing factors include things like anti-drug campaigns, family counseling and discussion.

The following information was gleaned from the most recent study may be frightening to parents, but you will do well to be armed with this information and be aware of behavioral changes in children. If you suspect your young teen is using drugs or alcohol, please contact our addiction counselors for information on affordable rehab.

Daily Marijuana use is on the rise in all age groups. Among 12th graders included in the study, use is now at its highest point since the early 1980s. The study also found that perceived risk of regular marijuana use is definitely on the decline, which may predict a future upward trend in use.

Second to marijuana, prescription and over the counter medications account for the drugs most often abused by 12th graders. While non-medical use of Vicodin has decreased slightly, OxyContin use remains steady across the 9th and 12 graders, and actually increased in 10th graders over the past 5 years. Non-medical use of Adderall and over-the-counter cough and cold medicines among 12th graders remains high.

After declining for several years, use of the dangerous party drug Ecstasy has risen among 8th and 10th graders. From 2009 to 2010, lifetime use of ecstasy among 8th graders increased from 2.2% to 3.3% which also demonstrates a marked drop in perceived risk in using the drug.

The challenge in curtailing teen drug use is that the so-called “benefits” of using a given drug spread faster than perceived risks. The “benefits” of a drug are immediately evident, and electronic forms of communication like chats and text messages allow these “positive” experiences spread quickly among groups of young people.  Gathering information about the drug’s risks takes time, but when aggressively distributed through discussion with friends and family, the results are dramatic and positive.